A recent report by Thompson Reuters Foundation has named the Egyptian capital Cairo as the most dangerous megacity for women in the world, insisting that the city has become more unsafe for women since the Arab Spring in 2011.
During the uprising, which led to the ouster of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Cairo made international headlines as a city where women could not walk freely without being sexually assaulted.
A lot of high-profile cases of sexual violence against women in Cairo, especially in Tahrir Square, were reported almost on a daily basis throughout the month-long revolt. Unfortunately, the situation appears to have grown even worse, if the report by Reuters is anything to go by.
The report comes from an international survey on the safety of women in cities with more than 10 million people. The study was done in 19 major cities around the world where specialists on women issues were requested to give their opinion on how well women are protected from sexual violence.
The survey ranked London as the friendliest megacity for women, followed by Tokyo and Paris.
Many human rights organization in Egypt have often accused the Egyptian government of doing too little to stamp out centuries-old cultural practices that promote discrimination against women.
They particularly have a problem with the continued perception that women are somehow inferior to men. With this notion, most Egyptian men tend to see and treat women as their accessories.
During the infamous revolt, in which Egyptian women were actively involved, government forces and pro-government protesters used sexual violence as a weapon to discourage women from participating.
In private circles, this heinous crime was often committed against women by men and security forces as a way of maintaining control and instilling fear in women. Sadly, it continues to be used as a weapon to discourage women from joining politics.
Aside from sexual violence, women in Egypt and Cairo in particular are often subjected to many other forms of discrimination including physical abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, female infanticide, unemployment and poor pay.
Actions Being Taken
Although the Egyptian government appears to be quite reluctant in dealing with the problem of violence against women, the country’s Constitution of 2014 gives women all the necessary basic human rights and freedoms.
Similarly, the Egyptian Criminal Code makes sexual harassment and FGM serious misdemeanors, while rape, kidnapping a female, and sexual assault are classified as felonies that can easily attract a death penalty.
Egyptian human rights activists and legal experts have been pushing for the introduction of tougher laws that will help to deal with the scourge of sexual violence in the country once and for all.
One of the proposed laws is the introduction of a provision that will compel the government to support the civil society in raising awareness about the problem. With regular community sensitization campaigns, experts are confident that the violence will slowly come to an end.
by Fredrick Ngugi